10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Quilts of 2021-2022

More and more backpackers are switching from sleeping bags to backpacking quilts because they’re lighter weight, more compressible, and more comfortable, especially for side sleepers. While top quilts have always been popular with the hammock crowd because they’re easier to use in the confined space of a hammock, they’re also a great sleeping system option for ground sleepers, when coupled with a sleeping pad. Backpacking quilts are ideal for summer and warm weather since they’re so easy to vent if you’re too hot. But in freezing temperatures, starting at 20 degrees and below, most backpackers still prefer a sleeping bag because the wraparound fabric is less drafty.

Here are our choices for the top 10 best backpacking quilts based on price, insulation, temperature rating, weight, features, versatility, sizing, and availability (see below for detailed explanations of each criterion.) Most of these quilts are made and sold by so-called cottage manufacturers, which range in size from one-man shops to medium-sized businesses that employ dozens of people. All of them produce very high-quality products that are significantly lighter weight and better performing than the quilts produced by mass-market gear companies like ENO, Therm-a-Rest, Kammock, Sea-to-Summit, or NEMO.

The advantage of buying a custom or semi-custom-made quilt from a cottage manufacturer is that you can personalize it with added features, higher quality/lighter weight insulation, or custom fabric colors. An increasing number of quilt makers also offer Economy quilts made with a limited set of options that are much less expensive and often available immediately. These are a great option if you’re trying a backpacking quilt for the first time and overwhelmed by the customization choices available.

1. Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt

Revelation Custom Quilt
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is a quilt that can be used in a hammock or for sleeping on the ground. It’s available as a Custom or Economy model in a wide range of different lengths, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabric weights. The Revelation comes with an excellent pad attachment system, a zippered/ drawstring footbox, half taper, and an optional draft collar. You can also choose from two different grades of down: 850 or 950 fill power down. A Custom Revelation 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 21.3 oz and costs $420. Read our Revelation Quilt review.

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Enlightened Equipment

2. UGQ Outdoor Bandit Top Quilt

UGQ Bandit

The UGQ Bandit is a top quilt that’s equally at home in a hammock or on the ground in a tent. It’s available as a Custom or Economy model in a wide range of different lengths, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabrics. UGQ offers a choice of two sleeping pad attachment systems for the Bandit, 800, 850, and 950 fill power down, a zippered/ drawstring footbox, half taper, draft collar, and back tensioning system to reduce drafts. A Custom Bandit 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 23 oz and costs $345. A highly compressible synthetic-insulated Bandit will also be available in early 2020. Read our latest UGQ Bandit Quilt Review.

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UGQ Outdoor

3. Nunatak Arc UL Quilt

Nunatak arc-ul

The Nunatak Arc UL is a quilt primarily designed for ground use although it can serve double duty in a hammock. It is only available on a Custom-made basis, with a wide range of temperature ratings, lengths, and widths, with or without a draft collar, back tensioning system, with or without a pad attachment system, and several different outer shells and liner fabrics that emphasize breathability or water repellency. One of the unique options available on the Arc UL is the installation of external snaps that allow you to layer a synthetic quilt with it for cold weather use. The Arc UL is also available with 900 fill power goose down, treated or untreated. A Custom Arc UL 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs 21 oz and costs $425.

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Nunatak

4. Hammock Gear Burrow

Burrow
The Hammock Gear Burrow is a quality top quilt, best for hammock use, but available with a cord/mitten hook sleeping pad attachment option. It’s available in a premium Custom form as well as an Economy Model. Hammock Gear was the first cottage manufacturer company to introduce less expensive, limited function “Econ” quilts and deserves a lot of credit for helping to expand the quilt user base. The Burrow is available in a wide range of sizes, colors, lengths, widths, multiple fill powers, overfills, and footbox styles, but lacks a draft collar option. A Custom 20*F Burrow with all the bells and whistles weighs 21 oz and costs $353, while a comparable 20*F Econ model weighs 26 oz and costs $203. Read our Burrow Econ review.

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Hammock Gear

5. Feathered Friends Flicker UL

Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt Sleeping Bag

The Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt Sleeping Bag has a full-length zipper that lets it be used as an open-backed quilt or a wraparound sleeping bag. It has a draft collar, zipper draft tube and is insulated with 950 fill power goose down. The Flicker is available in 20, 30, and 40-degree models, in regular and long lengths, and regular and wide widths. We love its versatility and simplicity, especially in colder weather when you want to completely block out all drafts without having to fuss with sleeping bag straps. A 20*F Flicker UL weighs 25.2 oz and costs $424.00. Read our Flicker UL Review.

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Feathered Friends

6. Enlightened Equipment Conundrum

Enlightened Equipment Conundrum

The Enlightened Equipment Conundrum is a quilt sleeping bag with a closed foot box and a 3/4 length zipper. It’s ideal for people who always get cold feet or want a simple no-fuss design that can be opened wide like a quilt or zipped up to block drafts (although a sleeping bag attachment system is also available for use with it.) The Conundrum has a snap collar and a draft collar is available as an add-on option. The zipper is protected by dual draft tubes and a stiffener to prevent snags. A 20*F Conundrum UL weighs 24 oz and costs $450.00. Customized and economy models are available.

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Enlightened Equipment

7. Warbonnet Diamondback Top Quilt

Warbonnet Diamondback Quilt
The Warbonnet Diamondback is a down quilt made using Warbonnet’s constriction-point baffle pattern that uses a series of constrictions in the baffle pattern to isolate both halves of the quilt, reducing downshift, and letting you position overfill where you want it the most. The Diamondback is available as a Custom-made quilt or an Economy model. Available customizations include a wide range of widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, foot box styles, a draft collar, back tensioning system, and pad attachment system.  A regular-sized Custom Diamondback 20*F with all the bells and whistles weighs in at 19.5 oz and costs $415.

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Warbonnet Outdoors

8. Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag

Zpacks Classic Quilt
The Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag has a 3/4 length zipper so you can open it up on warm nights and use it as a quilt or zip it up for a draft-free sleep without the need to fuss with pad attachment straps. The Classic is insulated with 950 fill power water-resistant down and available in multiple lengths, widths, and temperature ratings. An elastic cord is used to tighten the bag around your neck to prevent drafts. A regular-sized Zpacks Classic 20*F weighs 19.3 oz and costs $379.

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 Zpacks

9. Katabatic Gear Alsek 22 Quilt

Katabatic Alsek 22
While some quilts feel like they aren’t wide enough to wrap around, the angled “wings” on the Katabatic Alsek 22 help keep the quilt secure around the hiker without a major weight penalty. The Katabatic Alsek weighs just 1 pound, 6 ounces with 900-fill down and a durable Pertex Quantum Ripstop. It also has a longer sewn footbox than some other quilt models, which helps trap more heat. We also like the Katabatic Palisade 30, but generally recommend something a bit warmer for a thru-hike, especially with the low weight of these quilts.

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Katabatic Gear

10. Loco Libre Ghost Pepper Quilt

LL Ghost Pepper

The Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper is a down quilt made with a unique chevron style baffle, which limits the amount of down shift by catching it in the corners that the baffle forms every time it changes direction. This eliminates cold spots and means that the down stays on top, where you want it, so you can stay warm. The Ghost Pepper is available in a wide range of widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, and foot box styles. You can also add a sleeping pad attachment system and a draft collar. This can all be very confusing for first-time quilt buyers, but they are very patient and happy to explain “the why” before you buy. A Custom Ghost Pepper 20*F weighs in at 19 oz and costs $305. Read our Ghost Pepper Review

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Loco Libre

Backpacking Quilt Selection Criteria

Here is a list of factors to consider when selecting an ultralight backpacking quilt.

Quilt Insulation

High-quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers because they’re so lightweight. In addition to excellent compressibility, quilts insulated with down will last for decades of use if properly cared for. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down lasts as long and insulates as well in the real world vs. a testing lab. Regardless, with a little care and common sense, you can keep a down quilt dry by carrying it in a waterproof stuff stack, picking good campsites that don’t flood in rain, and airing it out occasionally in the sun. Getting a quilt with synthetic insulation is another option and can be preferable in humid climates or for extended cold weather journeys, where it’s difficult to dry your gear.

Quilt Temperature Ratings

The introduction of standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings by the outdoor industry substantially improved their reliability. Many manufacturers had overstated their temperature ratings by as much as 10 degrees before that standard was introduced. No such testing standard exists for backpacking quilts, so you’re forced to rely on their reputation and customer reviews. When buying a backpacking quilt, the current rule of thumb is to purchase one rated for 10 degrees below your needs to ensure you’ll be warm enough. There is an enormous incentive for ultralight quilt makers to quote low gear weights, so read their customer reviews carefully.  Women may want to add 15-20 degrees of insulation because they sleep colder than men due to lower body mass. No one makes women’s specific quilts yet, although there is an obvious need for them.

Since there is no standardized test for rating the warm of a quilt, it is important to understand how manufacturers test and self-rate their quilts. Many assume that you will be wearing an insulated hat, long underwear, and socks, in addition to a sleeping pad with an R-value of 3 or higher. Contact them and ask before you purchase a quilt or you’ll likely sleep colder than expected.

Gear Weight

While gear weight is important, be careful not to sacrifice your comfort by selecting a quilt that won’t keep you warm in the conditions you need it to. In fact, insulation is usually the lightest weight component of a quilt, where the bulk of its weight comes primarily from the fabric used to make it. When choosing fabrics, consider their breathability and whether they have a DWR coating, which can be important if the foot of your quilt gets wet regularly  If you plan on using your quilt heavily, consider getting a heavier inner shell fabric as this is where the greatest wear and tear occurs over the long-term.

Standard and Custom Quilt Features

Most ultralight backpacking quilts are pretty similar when it comes right down to it. But there’s something unique about each of the manufacturer’s quilts listed above that improves their performance in a unique way. For example, the use of continuous or chevron-shaped baffles, draft collars, zoned insulation, closed foot-boxes and external snaps for quilt layering, all improve cold-weather performance. A strapless pad attachment system is far more convenient and comfortable than ones that rely on straps, while a head-hole enables multi-use as a garment. Look for these differentiators because they can have a profound influence on your backpacking experience.

Sleeping Pad Attachment Systems

There’s a lot of variability in sleeping pad attachment systems and their ability to block side drafts. We prefer ones with wide elastic straps and wafer clips (Enlightened Equipment, UGQ) because they’re easier to adjust in the dark and while you’re lying on top of a sleeping pad. We also find them to be more effective than attachment systems that use cords and/or mitten clips because these are more difficult to use when your hands are cold. All pad attachment systems are more effective when used in conjunction with a back tensioning system.

Ultralight Backpacking Quilt FAQs

What is a top quilt for backpacking?

A top quilt is just another name for a backpacking quilt that you use to cover yourself when sleeping on the ground on a sleeping pad or in a backpacking hammock. It’s basically a down-comforter shaped like the top half of a sleeping bag, but without a hood, that has a shaped footbox like a sleeping bag. Many top quilts can also be opened up and used like a blanket.

What is the advantage of using a backpacking quilt instead of a sleeping bag?

Backpacking quilts are lighter weight, more compressible, and more versatile than sleeping bags. They’re also more comfortable for side sleepers and people who toss and turn at night.

How wide should a backpacking quilt be?

Ground sleepers need extra fabric and insulation to tuck under their sides to prevent drafts. A width of 55″ is a pretty standard width for ground sleepers. Larger individuals may want to go a bit wider.

How long should a backpacking quilt be?

When sizing a quilt, it’s important to understand whether the length includes the foot-box or not, since several inches of fabric are lost when forming a foot box. Quiltmakers often provide recommended heights for users when quoting sizes, so look for these.

What is a backpacking quilt pad-attachment system?

A quilt-pad attachment system lets you connect the sides of a backpacking quilt to the top of your sleeping pad so that drafts can’t sneak under the sides and chill you. Most pad attachment systems have elastic straps that you loop over a sleeping pad with clips that connect to the sides of your quilt. The male parts of the clips connect to female clips sewn onto the quilt. These are small and barely noticeable. All pad attachment systems are more effective when used in conjunction with a back tensioning system. In warm weather, most people skip the pad attachment system, but it is useful when it’s colder outside at night.

What temperature should a quilt be rated for?

For men, you can’t go wrong with having a 20-degree (Fahrenheit) quilt because you can vent it easily in warmer weather. Since women have less body mass and generate less body heat, we recommend getting a 10-degree quilt. If you think you’re a colder sleeper, we also recommend getting a 10-degree quilt.

Is there a temperature rating standard for quilts, like sleeping bags?

There isn’t a temperature rating standard for quilts like there is for sleeping bags. However, some testing labs apply the sleeping bag standard test to quilts, adding in a down hood, to simulate the effect of a sleeping bag hood. When in doubt, ask the quilt manufacturer how they derived their temperature rating. When in doubt, consider getting a quilt that’s rated 10 degrees colder than the lowest temperature you expect to need.

What is a draft collar?

A draft collar is a tube of fabric, usually filled with goose or duck down, located just below the hood of a sleeping bag or the head end of a backpacking quilt, that wraps around your upper chest and neck so heat can’t escape when you move around at night. For ground sleepers, it’s important that the controls used to tighten the draft collar be located over your chest within easy reach of your hands if you’re lying on your back or side.

What is the difference between a quilt with a zippered footbox vs a closed footbox?

A zippered footbox lets you open a quilt like a blanket, which is useful in warm weather. Most zippered foot boxes have drawstring closures which can also be opened for venting. Closed foot boxes are sewn shut and more like the foot boxes on sleeping bags. They’re also warmer than zippered foot boxes since they block drafts.

What is a quilt back tensioning system?

This is an adjustable system that pulls the sides of the rear hole of a quilt together to help block cold drafts. It augments a sleeping bag attachment system and is of primary benefit to ground sleepers. Vendors use different names for it, like Dynamic Tensioning System (UGQ), Adjustable Side Elastics (Warbonnet), and Edge Tension Control (Nunatak).

Why is a differential cut on a backpacking quilt important?

A differential cut is when the interior and exterior shell fabric of the quilt are cut to different sizes so that all of the down insulation can stay fully lofted around you even if you push against it or pull it tight. If the inner and outer fabrics were cut the same size, the down would flatten when you press against it, forcing the down to compress and lose all of its trapped heat.

Is it worth adding down overfill to a quilt?

It really depends on the design of the quilt. Most quilts are designed with an ideal baffle height and a differential cut that optimize the warmth for a given temperature rating. Adding some overfill might reduce down shift inside the quilt or not, depending on how it’s designed. When in doubt, ask the quilt manufacturer. Sometimes, it’s more effective to just get the next warmer-sized quilt instead.

What does denier mean?

Denier, often abbreviated as “d” or “D”, is a unit of measurement that is used to describe the thickness of individual fibers or threads. When shopping for backpacking gear or clothing, you’ll often see 10d or 20d tacked onto the end of a specification for the gear’s fabric. Higher denier fabrics are usually heavier and more durable than lower denier fabrics. For example, a quilt with a 10d shell fabric will be slightly lighter weight and less durable than one made with a 20d fabric.

What sleeping clothes should you use when sleeping with a backpacking quilt?

We recommend wearing a long sleeve jersey and long underwear, the same clothes you’d wear in a sleeping bag, to keep body oils and dirt from making the inside of your quilt dirty. Many people also wear a fleece hoody down hoody when sleeping under a quilt if more warmth is required. A fleece hat or down hood can also be worn in colder conditions.

Are quilts good for winter backpacking and camping?

Not really. Quilts are best used for temperatures greater than 20 degrees, although some people will drape a quilt over a sleeping bag in winter to boost its temperature rating.

When is a full-length zipper better than a 3/4 length zipper?

For cold weather quilts rated for less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit or if you’re a cold sleeper, we recommend that you get a quilt with a 3/4 length or full-length zipper. When zippered closed shut, it eliminates any chance of cold drafts, but still lets you sleep with the quilt open and draped over you in warmer weather.

What is the difference between 800 and 900 fill power down?

Fill power is a way of measuring how much space goose down or duck down can fill. For example, 1 ounce of 800 fill power down will fill 800 cubic inches, whereas 1 ounce of 9oo fill power will fill 9o0 cubic inches. More down generally means more warmth. So a 900 fill power down quilt provides more warmth than an 800 fill power quilt for the same weight of insulation. It also means that you can use less 900 fill power down by weight to get the same warmth as that supplied by 800 fill power down, thereby reducing the weight of your quilt.

Is duck down warmer than goose down?

Fill power is a species independent way of measuring the warmth to weight ratio of duck down and goose down. In other words 800 fill power duck down is as warm as 800 fill power goose down. The difference between the two boils down to the color of the insulation, which you won’t see because it’s sewn into a sleeping bag or quilt and not visible to the eye. Duck down is also less expensive than goose down because there are a lot more ducks in this world than geese.

What is the difference between a stock quilt and a custom quilt?

Many quilt manufacturers offer stock quilts, which are pre-made, have a limited feature set, use slightly heavier fabrics, and are only offered in a handful of colors. They also tend to use lower fill power down insulation or duck down instead of high fill power goose down. The advantage of buying a stock quilt is that they are usually less expensive and available much faster than one that is custom made, even if it is a few ounces lighter weight and comes in your favorite color.

What is the best type of sleeping pad to use with a quilt?

Most sleeping pads work well with quilt pad-attachment systems with a few exceptions, including inflatable air mattresses, self-inflating pads, and foam sleeping pads. Pads that don’t work very well are thin, closed-cell foam pads that are thinner than 1/4″ and Klymit sleeping pads that have openings in them. But in general, quilts work best with inflatable sleeping pads from Therm-a-Rest, Sea-to-Summit, NEMO, and Exped.

What is an underquilt for backpacking?

An underquilt is used by backpackers who sleep in hammocks. It provides back insulation, much like a sleeping pad does for people who sleep on the ground in tents or under tarps. While you can technically sleep on a sleeping pad in a hammock, an underquilt is much more comfortable because it is hung underneath the hammock and out of the way.

What is the Responsible Down Standard?

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certification aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to any unnecessary harm. Any removal of down and feathers from live birds (live-plucking or molt-harvesting) is prohibited; force-feeding is also prohibited. A professional, third-party certification body audits each stage in the supply chain. Certification ensures that the identity of RDS down and feathers is maintained at all times: from the farm to the final product.

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5 comments

  1. What is the difference between a quilt with a zipper and a sleeping bag?

  2. Hi! Something I miss from your nice list is the baffle construction. Sewn-through or much warmer trapezoid
    or H baffles make a lot of difference in warmth!

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